Thursday, September 25, 2014 6:18 pm
There were some hot exchanges at the Nigerian Senate today over the $1billion loan request by President Goodluck Jonathan to enable him prosecute the war against Boko Haram insurgents.
Although the loan was approved, senators debated its propriety before their president, Senator David Mark appealed for some consensus.
While some lawmakers applauded the effort of the Joint Committees on Finance, and Local and Foreign Debts on the loan request at plenary and moved for immediate approval of the loan in view of the security challenges, others raised concerns about the legality of the approval.
Sen. Olubunmi Adetumbi (APC-Ekiti), quoting the Appropriation Act and the constitution, argued that approving the loan without following laid down procedures had consequences.
“This request to the best of our ability and with the assistance of the constitution, has consequences for the existing Appropriation Act,’’ he said.
“We do not question the right of Mr President to ask for money but there is a process that needs to be followed,’’ he said.
In the same vein, Senator George Akume (PDP-Benue) called for appropriate procedures to be followed by the senate.
“Nobody is against the fight against insurgency. My concern is that the appropriate thing should be done,’’ he said.
The Senate President, Sen. David Mark, however, doused tension by explaining that the senate was not flouting any legal or constitutional provision as the borrowing was not in cash to attract any further procedure before approval.
“ I will suggest that we go ahead and approve this without raising any issues that will have any security implications.
“This is my appeal on this matter,’’ he said.
The Chairman of the Committee on Finance, Sen. Ahmad Makarfi (PDP-Kaduna), who presented the report, said the facility was not a cash loan but supply of military hardware to be paid over seven years.
He said in view of the urgent need to restore normalcy in the country and since the loan did not attract interest, Nigeria should take advantage of the opportunity.
According to him, the requested loan was for helicopters, ships, armament and hardware.
“The 12 nos. M135 Helicopters being requested for now are appropriate for the nature of the operation and the terrain.
“Belarus has accepted to give helicopters on the condition of instalmental payment over a seven-year period. Other hardware, armament and equipment will be bought on the same terms from other European countries,’’ he said.
Makarfi further said the joint committee discovered in its findings that the number of helicopters in the fleet of the Nigeria Air Force was inadequate for effective deployment.
He said the reason for inadequate helicopters was due to inadequate funds for maintenance and recent burning of two helicopters by insurgents in Maiduguri.
He further said that no new helicopter had been added to the fleet since 1998.
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